Equestrianism: Bourny treats himself to a win

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FRANCK BOURNY, who was a working pupil with Mark Todd for two years, advanced from his overnight fourth position to win the Blenheim International Horse Trials yesterday after a clear show jumping round on Mallard's Treat.

"I am really happy - it's the first time I can beat my boss," the 24- year-old Frenchman said after defeating Kimberly Vinoski of the United States on Over the Limit and Todd on Just a Mission.

Bourny and 26-year-old Vinoski, who had one jumping error, finished on exactly the same score. Cross-country times therefore decided the placings, with Bourny gaining the advantage because his slower round (in 9min 50sec) was closer to the optimum time of 10mins. Vinoski was 12sec further from the optimum time.

Todd, lying second overnight, had dropped behind these two with a couple of "unlucky rubs" which cost him 10 penalties yesterday. David O'Connor, in the lead for the United States with Custom Made after the dressage and show jumping, went back to fourth place after incurring 20 jumping penalties, plus one for time.

O'Connor explained he had over-ridden Custom Made (winner at Badminton in 1997) to the sixth fence, which incorporated a water tray. Problems ensued from there with his quirky, but exceptionally talented mount.

Bourny, who had won team and individual silver medals at young rider level, said his time with Todd had taught him "a different way to ride and to train." Mallard's Treat is now qualified for the Olympics and, judging by the interest shown from the French team trainer, the winning pair must now be among the Sydney possibles.

After the four rider fatalities in recent months, the Blenheim event supplied the four happy and trouble-free days that the sport so urgently needed. Though Saturday's cross-country was more lenient than last year, it was a serious challenge, with only 13 of the 93 who set out to tackle the 28 fences finishing clear within the optimum time.

Leslie Law, one of just three to finish on their dressage scores, was best of the British when finishing fifth on Matt Butler. The victorious Bourny and Law's brother, Graham (who moved up from 59th after the dressage to be 11th on Plantagenet of Rushall) were the only others to be unpenalised in both the cross-country and show jumping.

Katie Parker, originally named as Britain's second reserve for this week's European Three-Day Event Championships in Germany, was brought into the squad of six yesterday with 11-year-old Cornish Envoy. Both Gary Parsonage's Magic Rogue (one of the original six) and Nigel Taylor's The Frenchman II (who was first reserve) have had minor setbacks in training and will miss the trip.

Results, Digest, page 11